NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
This week in our 2013 conference previews we take a look at the Independent Schools playing FBS football. Only four schools are currently unaffiliated and claim no conference allegiance: Notre Dame, Navy, Army and BYU.
Notre Dame is obviously the most heralded of those schools and have a couple high profile prospects for the 2013 Draft. Who are the best senior prospects on the other teams?
Take a look at the Top Senior Prospects playing for an Independent team.
1) Manti Te’o, ILB –
Te’o is by far the best prospect in this group and one of the top 20 prospects in the entire country. Te’o seriously considered entering the 2012 NFL Draft where he probably would have been a first round pick, but decided to return to school for his Senior season. On the field Te’o is one of the most complete linebackers in college football. Te’o exhibits great strength and power to go with above average speed and athleticism.
Te’o is a powerful tackler and really excels at stacking and shedding blocks. Te’o can play in space and while he can improve in pass coverage he isn’t a huge liability in pass coverage. Te’o is a linebacking prospect who could fit in multiple positions in multiple schemes. He is a tremendously hard-worker and extremely coachable. It’s his intangibles and desire to be great which makes him such an elite LB prospect. I’d be surprised if Te’o wasn’t one of the first linebackers drafted in 2013.
2) Kapron Lewis-Moore, DL -
Lewis-Moore is a versatile defensive line prospect who has experience playing both tackle and end. Lewis-Moore has the frame (6’4″ 306 lbs.) to fit a number of different schemes at the pro level, but he probably projects best as a 3-4 DE, which he has experience playing.
While his pass rushing leaves a lot to be desired, he has been one of the leading tacklers on the team from the DL position, showing the ability to get off blocks and finish plays. Lewis-Moore only played in seven games last season due to a torn MCL ligament in his knee. He should be ready to go this fall and will be one of the leaders on the Irish defensive line.
3) Braxston Cave, OC -
Keep an eye on Cave who will be opening up holes for one of the most underrated running backs in the country, Cierre Wood. Cave is a three year starter and one of the best returning centers in the country, but has played some guard as well. Cave has shown steady improvement over the past two seasons and should only get better as a Senior.
He is a physical player who shows a mean streak when run blocking. While he has the physical tools to be a very good center, he makes too many mental mistakes right now. If Cave eliminates some of the break downs and missed blocks, he could anchor a very good Notre Dame run game. Like many Notre Dame players, Cave missed the end of last season with a foot injury.
Brigham Young University
1) Branden Hansen, OG –
Hansen is an Outland Trophy candidate and the next in a long line of draftable BYU offensive lineman. The 6’6″ 313 lbs. Hansen has started since a freshman and hasn’t looked back. Hansen has earned multiple accolades as one of the anchors of a very solid BYU offensive line. Hansen is a mid-round prospect, but could work his way up draft boards with a dominate season.
United States Naval Academy
1) Matt Warrick, LB –
Warrick is an athletic linebacker who lead the Midshipmen in tackles as last season with 103. Warrick also led Navy with seven pass break ups. Like most Navy players he is a bit undersized (229 lbs.) to play at the next level, but his speed and football instincts give him a shot.
2) Gee Gee Greene, RB -
Green is one of the fastest players on the Midshipmen and should be in for a big senior season. He rushed for 501 yards on 64 carries last season for an impressive per carry average of 7.8 yards. Green is only 5’8″ and 185 lbs, but with his speed and breakaway ability, he should get the attention of NFL scouts.
Jared Hassin, FB /AJ Mackey, OLB –
It’s tough to really find sure fire NFL prospects when watching the Army football team. Mackey is a DE/OLB pass rusher who led the team in TFL last season. He is only 6’1″ 240 lbs. but has very good speed and athleticism.
Mackey has good explosion off the ball and can get into the backfield to make plays. Hassin projects as a traditional fullback at the next level, but with the position become phased out of the NFL, Hassin will face long odds to make a team.